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Suns' sale likely to be approved, says minor league baseball exec

July 08, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN -- The president of Minor League Baseball said Wednesday during a visit to Municipal Stadium that the sale of the Hagerstown Suns likely will happen in a month's time.

During a stop on his tour of all 14 South Atlantic League cities, Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Conner discussed the possible sale of the team to a group of investors headed by Bruce Quinn of Delray Beach, Fla., and Tony Dahbura of Hagerstown.

"We'll get them approved," O'Conner said of the group looking to buy the team from Mandalay Entertainment Group of Los Angeles. "It is probably 30 to 35 days out."

O'Conner said he was "pleasantly surprised" when he visited Municipal Stadium to watch the Suns play the West Virginia Power, but said he could see bigger and better things for the city and the team by thinking ahead and employing strong business practices.

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"I had never seen this park and I always wanted to come and see it," O'Conner said. "There are obviously limitations of things that are done with the physical plant, but I'm very surprised. (Hagerstown Suns general manager) Bob (Flannery) and his staff have done a great job in keeping the stadium neat, clean and presentable to make the experience enjoyable."

O'Conner was elected in December 2007 as the 11th president of minor league baseball. He calls himself a "talking head," and he is considered a forward thinker when it comes to the business of the game.

O'Conner categorized Hagerstown as a small, but loyal city when it comes to the team, regardless of ownership. He said because of the ever-changing world of business, the city and the team's owners will have to make some decisions to keep the team ahead of that change.

"I'm not standing here making any threats," O'Conner said. "Everyone should take a great deal of pride about having a team here. It shows that there is a business model that has worked. But the business model around the stadium has changed, and it will keep changing. At some point, there will need to be a look at making some revisions."

Hagerstown will need to look at either renovating and upgrading Municipal Stadium or at building a new stadium, he said.

"This is not a 21st-century structure. Changes can be made here, but there are limits to what can be done," O'Conner said. "This is a small area, but we have a few that are smaller. Size becomes important because you need enough people to make your business model work and to get the corporate community behind it. But the size is secondary to the quality that is provided. You still have people who are inclined to come out and buy tickets and concessions. Companies are still coming in and buying ads. Hagerstown has a track record of support."

While building a stadium is expensive, it is part of a need to do business, not only for the team and the city, but also for the Major League team that uses the area to house its affiliate, he said.

"To have a secure future, you aren't only dealing with the fans, but you are dealing with the affiliations that are bringing the players here for development," O'Conner said. "This (Single A baseball) is the integral part of a young man's career. It is critical to their chances to make the major leagues, and there needs to be a good environment. There comes a point where there is a reality to it all. Teams might want to be here because it is nice or it is convenient, but they have to make a decision to what they need to develop players. In the end, the latter will win out.

"Our game (baseball) keeps moving and changing, and we have to work to stay ahead. There comes a time when areas are either unwilling or unable to keep pace. If areas are unwilling, things happen. But if they are unable, my heart goes out to those fans."

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